After ten years along Betsy Kerrison Road, at the entrance to Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, farmer Sidi Limehouse may have to close his produce stand.
Landowner Betty Stringfellow, 89, says she's ready to put her affairs in order and clear her two-and-a-half-acre parcel to leave to her family. Limehouse farms an additional 17 acres owned by Stringfellow's sister and niece, but the hub of his business operations are on Stringfellow's land.
Until last year, Limehouse's rent was $4,000 per year on the Stringfellow parcel. When she raised the rent for 2010 to $10,000, Limehouse mounted a legal protest. That lawsuit was settled in Stringfellow's favor. Their relationship improved enough that Limehouse visited with his landlord in early December and brought her flowers, but on Thursday, she announced she'd decided not to renew his lease. Limehouse must be off the property by Jan. 30, 2011.
"It's simple. I'm going on 90, and my only child has bone cancer and is very ill," says Stringfellow. "I have three pieces of property, and I have to get it all pulled together for when I die. It has to be cleared so my daughter can inherit it, and if she doesn't make it, then it goes to her husband. I just cannot leave all the loose ends for someone who is not well to handle."
Stringfellow says that after the announcement, she immediately began receiving heated e-mails and telephone calls.
"A woman called me and was hysterical. She said she buys fresh vegetables from Sidi and cooks them for her little dog, and now that she can't get them, what is she going to do?" recounts Stringfellow. "She said the vegetables from the grocery store were poisoned and came from Mexico. I've been eating vegetables from the grocery store all my life. I don't know what Sidi told her."
Stringfellow's sister Dorothy McKee also has cancer. Sidi says relocating the produce stand to the adjacent 17 acres owned by Mckee isn't an option because of the uncertainty of that land being sold if she passes. McKee's three sons are deceased, and he fears the surviving daughters-in-law will sell the parcel when she's gone. McKee's daughter and the land's co-owner, Marie Beckett, told Kiawah's Island Connection newspaper that she'd miss the stand and that her grandkids enjoy it. City Paper was unable to reach Beckett in time for this story.
Residents of Kiawah and Seabrook who have grown accustomed to visiting the stand will be the most affected. Limehouse keeps a variety of farm animals at the market, including a talking parrot. It's a popular attraction with visitors to the islands.
Limehouse says he's hopeful he can get Stringfellow to change her mind.
"She's mad at me, but she doesn't need the money," says Limehouse. "I don't want to piss her off. I'm just trying to say what she's done that's positive."
If the stand does close, he says he'll continue his growing operation and his popular Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
"We're not going to go out of business," says Limehouse. "We just won't have the stand. A lot of people on Kiawah and Seabrook will be really upset that they can't bring their grandkids anymore."